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Lamb Nihari

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Lamb Nihari is one of the best curries on the planet!

If you’re looking for a delicious and authentic lamb curry, then lamb nihari is one you must try! Go to any Pakistani or northern Indian restaurant and lamb nihari is almost certain to be on the menu.

The great thing about lamb nihari is that it is quite mild so it can be served to anyone. The curry is served with finely chopped fresh chillies, coriander (cilantro), lemon wedges and julienned ginger to spice it up at the table.

This curry, which is often made with beef in Pakistan, is delicious serve with fresh naans or chapatis. Although not as common, lamb nihari can also be served with Basmati rice. If you want to make this curry into a feast, I recommend trying it with chicken haleem, samosas and a good dal

lamb nihari

What is lamb nihari?

This curry is normally prepared with lamb shanks. Shanks take a good few hours to cook and as they do, the bones flavour the sauce. Lamb nihari is often served at fancy restaurants on the bone but more common is for the meat to be taken off the bone and then served in that delicious sauce.

Lamb nihari sauce is quite thick as it is thickened before serving with gram flour. That together with the meat juice and spices make this a curry not to be missed!

How long does lamb nihari take to cook?

When cooking this curry with lamb shanks, you can plan on about 3 hours. As the lamb shanks simmer in the sauce, they become fall apart tender and it is so amazingly good!

Other cuts of lamb will cook faster but I really recommend trying this with lamb shanks. 

Working ahead

As lamb nihari takes a while to cook, you might want to get a head start. The great news is you can prepare this curry 2 – 3 days ahead of serving. As it sits in the fridge, the flavours will develop and your lamb nihari will be even better.

If you aren’t interested in cooking the whole curry ahead of time, you can at least grind and prepare the spice blend. Keep it in an air-tight container until ready to use. 

How long does this curry keep in the fridge?

You can store lamb nihari in the fridge for at least three days. Depending on how fresh the meat is that you use, you might be able to keep it for 5 days.

Can lamb nihari be frozen?

Yes. This curry freezes really well for up to six months.

How do you serve lamb nihari without the bones?

I know some people don’t like meat on the bone. Hopefully, you will still cook it on the bone as there is so much flavour in those bones!

If you would prefer not to serve your lamb nihari on the bone, Just transfer the lamb shanks to a plate to cool some. The remove the meat and add it back into the sauce.

Ensure your sauce and meat are piping hot before serving. 


  1. Be sure to grind the spice blend very finely. It’s better that way.
  2. Do not rush the cooking time. The lamb shanks are ready when they are tender so let them simmer until they are.
  3. Be sure to serve your lamb nihari with all the different traditional sides such as lemon wedges, ginger, coriander (cilantro) and finely chopped chillies. They add so much to the flavour!

Step by step photos.

ground spices for the curry

Grind the whole spice and then mix in the paprika, chilli powder and ground ginger.

Frying onions in a pot.

Fry the onions for about 7 minutes or until soft, translucent and beginning to turn a golden brown.

Adding fried onions and the spice blends to the meat.

Heat the butter or ghee and brown your lamb shanks for a couple of minutes. Then pour in the fried onions and spice blend.

Simmering the curry.

Pour in the water and bring to a simmer. Stir well and cover to simmer over medium heat for about 3 hours or until tender.

Cooked lamb shanks.

When the meat is fall off the bone tender, Transfer it to a plate.

Simmering the sauce without the lamb shanks.

Bring the sauce to a simmer. It’s time to thicken it!

Adding flour to the sauce to thicken.

Make a slurry with equal parts water or stock and the gram flour. Then stir it into the sauce to thicken. You can add more slurry if you prefer a thicker sauce.

Lamb nihari

Just look at that! The meat is tender it literally melts in you mouth.

Lamb nihari with all the fixings.

Serve with all the traditional sides and you will be in curry heaven.

Yield: 4 - 6

Lamb Nihari

Lamb Nihari
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 20 minutes


  • 4 lamb shanks (about 2kg/4lb 6oz in total)
  • 1⁄2 tsp salt, plus extra to taste
  • 125ml (1⁄2 cup) rapeseed (canola) oil
  • 1 whole nutmeg, crushed into small pieces
  • 1 blade of mace
  • 2 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 3 Indian bay leaves (cassia leaves), shredded
  • 2.5cm (1in) piece of cinnamon stick or cassia bark, broken into small pieces
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds (black onion seeds)
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 40g (3 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, sliced into rings
  • 1 - 2 tbsp chapatti flour
  • 5cm (2in) piece of ginger, peeled and julienned
  • 2–3 hot fresh green chillies, finely sliced
  • Handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves
  • Lemon wedges


  1. Place the lamb shanks on a plate and rub them all over with 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of the oil. Set aside while you prepare the spice masala. This is a raw spice masala so no need to roast the spices first.
  2. Put the nutmeg, mace, fennel seeds, bay leaves, cinnamon, peppercorns, nigella seeds, cloves and cumin seeds in a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder.
  3. Stir in the paprika, chilli powder and ground ginger.
  4. Melt the butter in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over a medium heat. Add the onion rings and fry for about 5 minutes until soft, translucent and lightly browned. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  5. Now pour the remaining oil into the saucepan and brown the lamb shanks for about 2 minutes.
    Add the ground spices and browned onions and pour in 1.2 litres (5 cups) warm water.
  6. Arrange the lamb shanks in the saucepan, cover and simmer over a low heat for 3 hours, basting and turning the shanks every 30 minutes.
  7. After 3 hours, carefully lift out the shanks into a large, warmed serving bowl. Skim off as much excess oil from the cooking liquid as possible and discard.
  8. Mix the chapatti flour with 4 teaspoons water to make a smooth paste. Whisk the paste into the sauce and simmer for 5–6 minutes to thicken.
  9. Season with salt and pour the sauce over the meat in the serving bowl. Serve the garnishes in little bowls on the table to add to the lamb nihari as you like.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 275Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 65mgSodium: 283mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 3gSugar: 1gProtein: 20g

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Indian restaurant style lamb nihari

Serve in individual bowls and let people add what they want. 


Thursday 29th of July 2021

Also Dan,

I was thinking of trying this in a slow cooker with half leg of lamb on the bone? Any tips please? Maybe trimming some excess fat off before browning it in a pot - then transfering to the slow cooker? And serving it as a full half leg on a platter in which people can help their self?

Dan Toombs

Tuesday 3rd of August 2021

I think that sounds like a great idea. I have never used a slow cooker for that recipe but I would imagine it would work very well. Thanks Dan


Sunday 25th of July 2021

Hi Dan,

Is there an alternative to use instead of chapati flour? Thanks

Dan Toombs

Wednesday 4th of August 2021

Unfortunately there is not really an alternative to chapati flour but you can buy it on line and at Asian grocery stores. Thanks Dan

Miles Luckim

Friday 11th of January 2019

What weight would 1/2 a leg of lamb be please?



Dan Toombs

Monday 14th of January 2019

Hi Miles - To be honest, I have no idea. Really you're aiming for about 200g of meat per person.

Thanks, Dan


Sunday 22nd of April 2018


Dan Toombs

Friday 27th of April 2018

Thank you very much for that Dave. Great to hear and much appreciated.



Tuesday 14th of March 2017

can you pls give receipe for indian chicken korma

Dan Toombs

Wednesday 15th of March 2017

Hi Aasma

Thanks for the suggestion! I have a few already on my list. Coming soon. I do have a nice Bangladeshi shahi murgh korma and an authentic lamb korma already on the site. Just type them into the search on the right hand side.

Thank you, Dan

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